Blackwell Briefing: America's Biggest Political Problem since 1860

National recovery depends on rolling back previous leftist victories.  That means giving no more gains to the left through compromises, cutting government outlays on “entitlements”  and “discretionary” spending, and cutting back both regulations and the legal authority for bureaucrats to impose more regulations.  That’s the only way to save the economy, promote growth, and create more jobs.

The pendulum of public policy must be swung back.  If that is not achieved, our country is headed straight for something much worse than the similarly-caused financial crisis today in European countries.  It would be worse because, unlike for Europe now, there is no source on Earth capable of bailing out a bankrupt United States.

Rolling back big government is the greatest political problem in the United States since 1860.

Every expenditure of government funds has a constituency to support it fiercely.  And the anti-reform constituency includes more than the direct recipients of government checks.  

Lobbyists are a major part of the problem.   Most of them make most of their money by seeking financial advantages from government for their clients.  They will use their contacts and skills to prevent any reduction in government power to make decisions to favor special interests.  

Similarly, trial lawyers are always and everywhere the most active foes of tort reform, even though tort reform certainly increases general prosperity.

Lobbyists and trial lawyers will fight conservatives in the political process, but the ideological left doesn’t limit itself to peaceful, civilized activity.

Let us suppose that the conservatives newly activated in politics succeed in electing a determined conservative President and a Congress with determined conservative majorities in both Houses.  What would the left do? 

They would take to the streets, initiate violence, blame conservatives for provoking the violence, and count on their supporters in the media to raise a public clamor against the leaders responsible for each and every proposed or enacted cut in the cost or power of government.  What happened in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2011 was mild compared to the national disruption which would ensue.   

Through violence and disruption, the left would do all they could to make the country ungovernable.  And I’m not certain they wouldn’t succeed.

Nevertheless, conservatives can do much to prevent America from continuing down the path to disaster.  

For me, that means doing all I can to increase the number and effectiveness of conservative activists and leaders in government, politics, and the news media.  Fortunately, thousands of Americans generously contribute to my efforts to identify, recruit, train, and place a new generation of conservative leaders and activists.  

In 2010, my Leadership Institute trained more than 9,600 people, a new record, and in 2011 my staff and I trained more than 11,800 people and set a new record.  Since 1979, my institute has taught more than 104,000 conservatives how to win in the public policy process, including more than 13,000 who live in Virginia.

Although I am quite certain that the fundamental purpose of the left is to gain power for themselves over others, I believe that conservatives should be prepared to counter the left’s claim to be motivated by a noble desire to provide equally for the needs and prosperity of all humanity.

There is no compatibility between financial equality and either liberty or general prosperity.  For wealth to be created, some people hire other people.  Where in all history has there been financial equality except where all people were equally poor?

How did it hurt Americans for Steve Jobs to have, say, seven billion dollars?  Would it have hurt us more if he had a fortune of $20 billion or $50 billion?  As long as he did not force us to buy his products, he was entitled to the profits from his sales to willing customers.  The legitimate role of government is to protect people from abuse, not to make them financially equal.  That would amount to political plunder.

I spent many years fighting Nelson Rockefeller’s people within the Republican Party, but I never thought it would be right for government to take away his money.  And conservatives like me regularly defeated the better-financed Rockefeller Republicans in College Republicans, Young Republicans, and the senior party.

Unfortunately, envy is a common and strong human characteristic.  Wise people eschew envy, but many others are attracted by people who promise them something for nothing, particularly when they are encouraged to believe that receiving for nothing the wealth of others is somehow achieving “justice.”  None of the Occupiers understand the old story about killing the goose that laid the golden egg.  Perhaps their parents never read it to them.

What does the gap between the richest and poorest in any country signify?  

Despite familiar claims to contrary, in any prosperous country, the poor don’t get poorer as the rich get richer.  The poorest of the poor, and there are always many of them, are flat broke and can’t get any poorer.  

A good definition of the American Dream is when poor people manage through their legitimate efforts to become rich.  With economic liberty, that happens often, but it serves the left’s purposes to have many people believe that economic success is somehow immoral.

The rich getting richer inevitably provides more jobs for the poor, unless the poor loot the rich and destroy the ability of job creators to create more wealth in the country.

While hate and envy aren’t virtues, hiring people and making charitable gifts are.  Rich people notoriously redistribute some of their wealth by hiring other people who are willing to work for them.  Most rich people share some of their wealth by contributing, often very generously, sometimes anonymously, to help poor people or to improve society in other ways they think are important.

In contrast, when government gets involved in matters done more efficiently by private, voluntary transactions, everything is politicized.  Who gets what becomes a political decision.  That’s a guarantee of inefficiency, waste, fraud, corporate welfare, and favoritism based on political alliances.  

Government never creates wealth.  Government employment and government-provided “benefits” necessarily require compulsory taxation of private wealth or borrowing and leaving the bill to be paid, if it can be paid, by future taxpayers.  Politicians motivated by the desire to get power or stay in power well understand, as the saying goes, “If you rob Peter to pay Paul, you can count on Paul’s vote.”  

And since Paul always wants more and more of Peter’s money, many politicians spend their careers promising almost everyone something for nothing.

The most effective ploy of the Occupiers has proved to be their adoption of the claim that they represent 99% of the people against the richest 1% percent.  That’s a modern adaptation of “Workers of the world, unite!”  And it has the advantage of continued applicability.  Even if all the wealth of the current top 1% were taken from them, there would still be others left to loot, those comprising the new 1%.

Note that the vilification of the top 1% is pure class warfare.  It makes no distinction for those who earned their money legitimately.  

A more relevant division would be between the Occupiers and a vastly larger group, those who aspire to be among the top 1% and work hard to provide the goods and services others want to pay for.

The left cannot accept the increasingly obvious fact that big government is destroying jobs and bankrupting our country and its people.  With that deliberate blindness comes a political vulnerability.

The American people are waking up to the certainty of disastrous consequences for our country if big government isn’t drastically trimmed.  

Whether or not enough Americans will wake up in time to make their weight felt in the coming November elections is an open question.  But I have noticed that audiences get the point and respond enthusiastically when I ask if they’ve seen the new travel brochure.  Its headline reads:  “Visit Greece.  See our brand new ruins.”

This piece was published in the spring 2012 issue of the Leadership Institute's Leadership Memo.